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Notre Dame Swimming Setting Bedrock Under Mike Litzinger

Photo Courtesy: Marcus Snowden/Notre Dame

Morning Splash by means of David Rieder.

Mike Litzinger remembers the first time the Notre Dame ladies’s and males’s groups swam a blended follow Beneath his leadership: December 18, 2015.

“It was most certainly the best practice I’ve viewed our team do,” he mentioned. “The Youngsters have been excited. We had been mixed in. It used to be a team practice.”

That day, Notre Dame had introduced that then-men’s head Educate Matt Tallman was once taking an indefinite leave of absence and that Litzinger, in his first yr as head Coach of the women’s crew after in the past spending eight years as an assistant at North Carolina, would take over the men’s program on an period in-between foundation.

All The Way Through the first 1/2 of the 2015-Sixteen season, the separation of the ladies’s and men’s groups had been international for Litzinger, who had all the time coached in combined programs. However at Notre Dame, the women and men had been cut up up for twenty years. When all that all of sudden modified in December, Litzinger and two assistants had 60 swimmers to manage.

Regardless Of the midseason exchange and limited group of workers, the Preventing Irish finished with a “modicum of success” that year. Each teams finished seventh at Each ACC championships, But neither scored a single point at both NCAA championships.

But Litzinger, inspired by means of the sure power he saw when the women and men first swam collectively, needed to make the mixed staff a everlasting fixture. In April, Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick agreed, and he named Litzinger the full-time head Educate of a blended program.

Sure, it was a risk—any type of large exchange is, particularly after Twenty Years of doing issues a technique—But Litzinger noticed massive rewards down the line if the workforce would purchase in. They did.

“There was a culture shift that we needed to put in force with (Swarbrick’s) beef up, after which the athletes had to buy into that,” Litzinger stated. “The women and men had been separated for see you later that being together was thrilling, new, But there was once no actual route on which means we were going to head with this.

“To all their credit score, The Children totally bought into what my team of workers and i had viewed, our imaginative and prescient of what we were going to do.”

Right Away, Litzinger stressed out that his swimmers needed to embody the academic rigor of Notre Dame and had to buy into full-scale coaching over the summer season. “That must be part of the tradition,” he mentioned, “and which you could never dumb it down or downplay it. It’s required of you to be here.”


Picture Courtesy: Mike Miller/Notre Dame

Litzinger mentioned transferring “from an incredible East mentality to an ACC mentality.” The Irish men and women had won convention titles In The outdated Large East, However when realignment put them into one of the us of a’s deepest leagues, contending would take much more than in the past.

But as an institution, the Irish have been no stranger to athletic success—Litzinger recalled standing subsequent to men’s basketball Educate Mike Brey and Hall of Reputation ladies’s basketball Coach Muffat McGraw at considered one of his first athletics body of workers conferences.

“I’m more or less the bum At The desk,” he mentioned. “I’ve received to up my sport.

The expectation was set: Being an additionally-ran In The ACC would Not be excellent sufficient.


Very Quickly, the Notre Dame men’s group surged. At The end of Litzinger’s first yr instruction a mixed software, the Irish finished 40 factors in advance of Virginia Tech to finish 1/3 On The ACC championships.


Notre Dame diver Joe Coumos — Picture Courtesy: Mike Miller/Notre Dame

Sprinters Justin Plaschka (50 free) and Tabahn Afrik (A Hundred free) each finished 2d individually, backstroker Rob Whitacre and breaststroker Trent Jackson every scored Big, and Joe Coumos topped the 1-meter event for the Irish.

One month later at NCAAs, the staff finished 25th with 29 points total, 11 of them coming from Jackson’s eighth-situation end Within The 200 breast.

“He was once a miler after I received here,” Litzinger said of Jackson. “I turned him over and put him In The breaststroke group, and he went Fifty Two.2 and 1:53.5.”

Jackson graduated after that season, However the remainder of Notre Dame’s core returns. Whitacre and Coumos Both narrowly missed scoring performances On The NCAA championships, and Sprint relays led by Plaschka, Afrik and Daniel Speers will have to once more score points On The national stage.

For conference championship purposes, predict the Irish and Florida State to have the very best Dash relays Within The ACC this facet of NC State. Nonetheless, it’s tough to peer Notre Dame beating out both NC State or Louisville At The ACC championships, meaning a third or fourth-location finish is almost definitely the ceiling for this yr’s group.

That said, the Irish have brought a potential difference-maker this 12 months, a freshman who has fast expanded himself into the nation’s elite In The distance races.

Heading into convention championship season, Zach Yeadon is ranked No. 7 Within The united states of america in Both the 500 and 1650 free. All season, Yeadon has been essentially the most consistent dual meet performer for his workforce, and his season-bests of 4:14.Ninety Three In The 500 and 14:47.18 Within The mile would have already got been excellent enough for fourth at last yr’s convention meet.

Litzinger and distance workforce Teach Aaron Bell have Now Not been afraid to push their celebrity freshman out of his comfort zone, and Yeadon has replied Simply has they had hoped.

“You Must have those tough conversations with a guy like Zach about, ‘Hello, what’s the next move?’ or ‘Whats Up, you ready to double the A Thousand and 200 free?’” Litzinger said. “You Use it as a learning experience, as a instrument to get higher. He’s very open to do whatever it takes. He’s at all times like, ‘Coach, if it’s just right for the team, I’m doing it.’ That’s how he’s.”

Successful a person ACC title as a freshman? Well, he could prove doing that, too.


As for the Notre Dame women, they have got yet to complete higher than seventh On The ACC championships Beneath Litzinger, However The crew lost little of its key factors from ultimate yr. All 4 of its individual convention finalists return: Junior backstroker Alice Treuth, junior breaststroker Meaghan O’Donnell, sophomore flyer Erin Sheehan and sophomore freestyler Abbie Dolan.

Where Yeadon has been the ever-present double winner for the boys at each Notre Dame dual meet for the lads, Dolan has been that for the ladies. In Fact, she took on her staff’s ace position In No Time as a freshman In The fall of 2016.

“I noticed her swim a long time ago, proper after I obtained the job at (Notre Dame During) a Sectional meet in Minnesota, and i actually liked the way in which that she sat In The water,” Litzinger recalled. “I was considering, ‘This child will be lovely just right.’”


Abbie Dolan — Picture Courtesy: Mike Miller/Notre Dame

As a freshman, Dolan finished fourth Within The 200 free At The ACC championships, swimming as fast as 1:Forty Four.Sixty Five in that experience and 48.01 on the Irish’s Four Hundred free relay. But she was in poor health all the way through that complete meet—with mononucleosis, it became out.

“The day after the ACCs, that Friday on the way residence, she was once a catastrophe, after which she sat out for 10 days major as much as NCAAs. She literally got in more than likely 5 – 6 days prior to NCAAs, and she Nonetheless was once in a position to crank out a 1:45 At The meet and cut up 48 on the relays,” Litzinger said. “That tells you what type of talent the kid has.”

Dolan has no fear, in keeping with her Tutor, and he or she received’t back off from racing a swimmer with the pedigree of, say, Mallory Comerford. In The 200 free closing at ACCs last 12 months, Dolan tried to move out with Comerford and was once only three tenths behind At The midway level, But she fell apart over the final Seventy Five.

But The next time the two raced head-to-head in a 200 free, at a a lot much less consequential October twin meet, Dolan again took the race out exhausting and had sufficient to score a win over Comerford, 1:46.12 to 1:Forty Six.13.

“For Abbie, daily is new, and it’s Still new,” Litzinger said. “This yr, she’s in fact wholesome, so it’s Still new. She’s fascinated about what she will do, and he or she’s fascinated with the method. I Believe the secret is conserving her fresh, preserving her excited, protecting all the time a bit carrot to chase in the market for her.”

With Dolan at full power and a helping cast that includes freshman distance swimmer Lindsay Stone, the Irish ladies determine to leap up a couple of spots In The conference rankings this season—even supposing taking down NC State, Virginia or Louisville can be a particularly tall order.

“I Think our girls are poised to make the same kind of soar that our males did ultimate year,” Litzinger stated. “It Is Going To be a bit harder as a result of I Believe (the women’s meet) is deeper. You’ve got Duke swimming Well, and (Virginia) Tech’s got older youngsters, and (North) Carolina’s Nonetheless bought some really great athletes. It’ll be a struggle, but it’s one who we’re able to take on.”

Positive, a top-4 or high-5 end At The ACC championships is just not Litzinger’s end intention, the restrict of “what I see as the entire doable prospects for Notre Dame,” however it’s a step towards the national relevance he’s looking for for Both his girls and his males.

In The End, constructing a program to that type of elite degree takes time, However because the first time the men and women swam together again Within The wintry weather of 2015, Litzinger knew he had all he wanted—a bunch of athletes willing to buy in.

“Nobody batted an eyelash,” he mentioned. “It was once sport on from the very starting.”

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